He was the unofficial good will ambassador of Bee Heaven Farm. He was tall and white, quiet and gentle, spirited and playful, and at the very sight of him, kids of all ages lit up and cried out, “A horse!” His name was Bali, short for Balbriggan, and he was the darling of the farm.
Visitors and friends alike would walk over to his yard and call to him, or make ch-ch-ch sounds, or hold out treats. Kids especially were excited to see him. They’d offer anything they could lay their hands on for Bali to eat, and watch in equal parts of glee and squeamishness as his soft lips gently took a freshly-pulled carrot out of someone’s brave hand.
What a good life Bali had, to hang out and look handsome, and have people bring him tasty things to eat! (Interesting how people have this desire to feed those with whom they fall in love.) In the first year I visited the farm, I’d bring apples for the horse. Thinking I’d be polite, I quartered the fruit, which only led to his impatient head tossing, asking for more. I was amazed to see him chomp down on a whole apple, and chew it up without effort.
As the years passed, we became so familiar with each other, that he would ignore me unless I had a treat. Sometimes I’d remember to bring one, and sometimes he’d come for a pat and a gentle rub. Rachel, farmer Margie’s daughter, would care for him and ride him every so often, as he was a retired horse. He was her bubblebutt, her boogerboy, her baliberry, her pride and joy. But when she went away to college, that special daily interaction stopped. Margie would care for him and take him outside to graze, and a farm hand would feed him. Only a few farm interns knew anything about horses and could offer to work with him. Bali became the gentle white icon of the farm, standing off to one side of the back yard, his face usually covered with a fly mask, flicking his tail. (And sometimes he was not so white, more like clay red from a mudbath after a summer rain.)
Bali passed away a few days ago at the ripe old age of 22. He had been fighting complications from sores caused by biting flies. They attacked him mercilessly, and he developed sores on his legs, and his right eye, which he scratched and got infected. The vet performed surgery on the eye, but it lost sight and Bali couldn’t seem to adjust to loss of vision. His spirits declined, and after a few months, he passed on quietly in his sleep.
Bali, sweet angel of the farm, I know you are feasting on apples and carrots in heaven, where there are no flies, and always people to love you and feed you. You live on in our hearts.